Martin Lewis: Are you missing out on childcare credits?

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Parents, pensioners, grandparents and carers may all be missing out on little-known entitlements worth £1,000s.

This is a clarion call to check NOW to see what you’re entitled to.

The first few of these relate to missing out on National Insurance credits, which you need 35 years of to qualify for the full state pension.

You normally gain these by working, but in some cases you can qualify in other ways - and this is where people miss out.

This isn’t trivial though. If you can add just £10 a week to your pension, and you get it for 25 years, that’s an extra £13,000.

1. PARENTS: Got young children? Don’t risk losing your state pension.

Since January 2013 child benefit has been means-tested, so if one parent earns over £50,000 the amount you get reduces.

Reach £60,000 earnings and you get nothing (though bizarrely two parents earning £49,999 each do).

Also, many parents of children born since then who don’t qualify, understandably haven’t bothered to claim the child benefit.

Yet this is a mistake. Claiming child benefits also triggers you getting National Insurance credits, crucial if you don’t work or earn under £5,824, as if you don’t get enough of those you won’t qualify for the full state pension.

If so, either just claim the benefit and accept the higher earning partner will pay tax on it.

Or, if one earns more than £60,000, claim child benefit at a “zero rate” which still triggers the credits.

To do this on the child benefit application form at www.gov.uk/child-benefit/how-to-claim tick in Section 4 for ‘Higher Income Earners’.

2. GRANDPARENTS: Looking after the children may mean National Insurance credits.

If you’re a grandparent looking after your grandchildren under the age of 12, the working parents (who are therefore getting their own National Insurance credits) may be able to transfer their NI credit to you, to help with your qualifying years for the state pension.

You need to fill in a CA9176 form and send it off to HMRC. Both you and the parent transferring the credit need to sign the form.

3. CARERS: You’re due credit.

If you’re one of the UK’s unsung army of carers, you may well be sacrificing your own earnings potential to help someone else. There may be some help available though.

Carer’s credit – For those caring between 20 and 35 hours a week and who aren’t paying their full national insurance.

This credit effectively tops up your National Insurance record, so you’ll have a larger state pension when you retire.

It’s thought up to 200,000 carers are missing out on this.

Carer’s allowance – For full-time carers (35+ hours a week) if the person you’re looking after gets certain benefits too you may be due weekly payments of up to £62.10/week.

More at www.gov.uk/carers-credit/overview / 0345 608 4321.

4. PENSIONERS: Are you one of 1.3 million missing out on pension credit?

It’s thought one in three lower income pensioners who are entitled to a top-up of their state retirement entitlement called ‘pension credit’ are not claiming it.

If you’re aged 63 or more and don’t receive the full state pension and have income of less than £155 a week (£237 if you’re a couple), you may be entitled to this extra payment.

Averaging over £50 a week, it’s not to be sniffed at.

Even those with some savings may be entitled to up to £14 a week of pension credit.

5. SEVERE MENTAL INCAPACITY: Council tax rebates may be possible.

If there’s only one person living in a house then council tax is reduced by 25%.

Yet certain groups are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes, students are one, but it’s little known those with medically certified ‘severe mental impairments’, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia – are also exempt.

So if two people live in a house and one has a severe mental impairment you should get the 25% discount. It’s estimated 100,000s are missing out on this.

To qualify for the discount the person needs be eligible for one of at least ten eligible benefits, including; severe disablement allowance, disabled persons tax credit, incapacity benefits and employment and support allowance.

To claim you can find your council contact details at www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction, if it says it hasn’t heard of this (sadly too common), persevere.

This can also be backdated, as far as it was relevant, to 1993.

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com.

To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip